I believe the value of an online relationship or a “Twitter friend” is a real and legitimate thing. Disconnecting from the community of friends and colleagues I’ve built online for 24 hours was not something I was looking forward to. I’m not a fool, however, as I knew the value of a digital disconnect. It was a chance to refocus and look at the value of my daily interactions online.
When I said I was going to do this, those who knew me expressed interest in knowing how those next 24 hours went. Here’s a look.
I think it’s important to provide a brief look at what my actual expectations were.
- I thought have an “itch” to quickly check Twitter (aka – my personal newspaper)
- I thought I may feel the desire to actually use my phone as, god forbid, a phone.
- Ultimately, I thought I’d go a bit nuts as I tend to like to do a quick look here or there to see “what’s going on”
Understand that social media isn’t just a part of my life – but it’s what has made my career. I wouldn’t be in my current role if I wasn’t active on social media. Even a simple “hello” or “thanks for connecting” is at the core of who I am on social media.
It should be noted that this challenge was not hard because social media is addicting or because I don’t spend time with my family. It was difficult because even it’s just a quick message here or there – social media is a way I connect to the world.
In order to prepare, I did a few things that were key to making the process a bit easier. In short, I turned off ALL notifications. I also moved my Social Media Folder on to a screen that was NOT my main start-up screen. As soon as I did this, I learned something. I have A LOT of notifications turned on. In truth, more than are needed.
With notifications turned off, the 24 hours began (and my wife rejoiced).
The Clock Starts
The last post I sent out before disconnecting was an adorable (I’m bias) photo of my son at Barnes and Noble playing with Thomas the Tank Engines.
I think this speaks to why this was a challenge for me. Social media is an opportunity to share experiences in real-time. I enjoy sharing these experiences. This last post I shared is a prime example of what I knew I’d miss sharing over the course of those next 24 hours.
Arriving home shortly after, I did find that I often did NOT have my phone with me. This is a bit of an oddity for me as it’s normally “attached to my hip” (though not literally – I’m not a fan of belt holders). In truth, it was a nice relief in many ways. No pings. I was glad I turned off notifications.
Whether it was helping my wife cook dinner or simply playing playdough with my son there was no thinking about my phone. Then evening hit.
“It’s 10 p.m….do you know where your phone is?”
Ok, I admit it. I use my phone in bed. It’s my alarm clock. It’s my nightly (and morning) reading material. When my family falls asleep I’m often still awake and bored. What do I do?
I check Twitter, see what’s happening on Facebook…you get the idea. I’m the first to admit this part sucked. I spent the better half of an hour staring at the ceiling because I couldn’t fall asleep. I eventually did fall asleep, but this certainly posed a bit more of a challenge to me as someone who thrives in the nighttime.
As an aside, thank god for House of Cards – which got me to 10 p.m. in the first place. Frank Underwood, you’d have my vote.
I wake up (with a nice kick to the head since my son is in bed with us at the time). It’s 6:30 a.m.. Only five and a half short hours until I’m able to look at Twitter. One problem. We don’t get a newspaper. My news comes via a variety of Twitter lists. Until this moment, I didn’t realize that I consume my news (in an organized manner) through social media. Go figure!
In truth, the rest of the day was no big deal. This whole thing was never going to or meant to be a big deal. But it was meant to be educational. It made me think about how I use social. Even though the rest of the morning I wasn’t able to touch Twitter (I was forced to miss #Coffeechat which bummed me) – it’s not like I was going insane.
All this said, when the clock struck noon (I have a physical clock that looks like a captain’s wheel in my kitchen), I was excited to have access to social media again.
Why, if I went most of this time without an issue, was I so excited to have social media back? The fact is I have built a community of friends on social media. It wasn’t the same not having access to them.
These people are my friends. Not Twitter friends. Not Facebook friends. Not Instagram friends. Friends.
Maybe not everyone has this experience and doesn’t have the same kind of connections online. For me, however, this is the honest to goodness feeling I have every day when I tweet people like Christin Kardos, Jay Viglione and Vincenzo Landino.
In Conclusion – What I Learned
This challenge wasn’t about can I or can’t I live without social media. In the end, however, I was forced to ask myself a few questions.
Q: Chris, Can you afford to look at my phone a bit less?
A: Yes, yes I can.
Q: Chris, does social media really provide value to your life?
A: Yes, yes it does.
There’s a happy medium to be had. My family has and will always be my priority. They are my world. But social media allows me to share my life experiences and build my digital identity which provides a major return to my family.
So, let me be honest here, I like social media. I like connecting with new people around the world. I like learning from those who are subject matter experts in areas I am not. Most importantly, I enjoy helping others. Social media lets me do all these things. Why would I want to not have access to it?
This was a nice lesson in ways to curb my usage to make it healthier while maintaining my digital connection to the global access my technology offered me. Maybe I’ll take a vacation again sometime soon.
Read more posts in this series:
My Digital Disconnect: Unplug to See The Light by Ben Phillips
My Digital Disconnect: The Value of Being in the Moment by Chris Mikulin
My Digital Disconnect: Fear of Missing Out #FOMO by Vincenzo Landino